There’s so much to do in and around Swellendam, smack bang between Cape Town and George on the Garden Route, that you’ll need at least three to five days to do it justice. Where to stay in Swellendam? Luckily you’re spoilt for choice, with everything from camping to five-star country hospitality, and everything in between.
Set up camp within spitting distance of the Breede River. If you have a tent you can snuggle it into a shaded enclave under a tree, but the branches hang too low to get most caravans into the shade. The ablutions are great, but not all sites have power so make sure you state your preference when you book.
In the evening we enjoyed listening to the fierynecked nightjars and woke in the morning to a bontebok and its calf munching on grass just a few feet away. There are walks, a mountain bike trail, and swimming or fishing in the river.
2. Farm getaway
We were greeted by Tess the golden retriever, who ushered us into a reception building that doubles as a TV lounge where parents can go to watch sport. Kids are far more likely to want to run and play outside.
That’s the secret of this place – open spaces and lots to keep the kids amused. They can ride their bikes, swim in the pool or canoe on the river, use the foefie slide, walk to the waterfall, fish for tilapia in the small dam, watch the cows or simply horse around at the playground where there's a jungle gym, old tractor, trampoline, mini soccer field and wendy house. ‘Our guests are 95% families and lots of repeat business,’ says co-owner Brian Kilpin.
For me – without kids, during the week and out of school holidays – the joy was in the birds, the whistling and popping of frogs, the night-time darkness and the sense of utter peace. It was cold the night we were there. Although we could have lit the little stofie inside, we wanted to enjoy the view so we sat on the stoep of our thatched rondavel and warmed ourselves at a fire in the built-in braai. Luckily wood and firelighters were provided, because we hadn’t thought to bring any.
3. Bed & Breakfast
The couple were welcoming and friendly without being intrusive. If we wanted to retreat to our room, that was fine. If we wanted to come out into the sitting area to chat and share a few laughs, they were happy to oblige. To my mind, that’s the perfect balance.
Although Impangele doesn’t provide dinner, the Shackleys are happy to recommend one of a host of restaurants in the town, or to let you do your own thing at the braai area. A bonus for hot days is being able to cool down in the converted water storage tank – dubbed the ‘plunge pool’ – on the stoep.
Amanda is on the Swellendam tourism board and knows a lot about the town and what’s worth doing here, so pick her brain. Husband Dave is king of the breakfast stoep with its red tablecloths and gorgeous view across the garden and up into the Langeberg mountains. A buffet of fresh fruit salad, yoghurt, cereals, a selection of pastries/muffins, cheese and cold meats was laid out. Dave took our orders for the hot breakfast and disappeared into the kitchen to magic up a plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, fried tomato, baked beans and mushrooms. Nothing was spared for just four people staying over, so even if you have an enormous appetite you won’t leave hungry.
4. Five-star luxury
The 10 rooms have been built in the garden, with hedges and shrubs to provide privacy. There were welcome touches like a chaise lounge and fireplace in our bedroom, a private verandah with two wicker chairs, divine-smelling toiletries, double basins and underfloor heating in the bathroom. When we got back from a delicious dinner in the Conservatory restaurant, an invisible hand had put a glass cloche with two truffles next to the bed and a hot-water bottle between the sheets.
It all seemed smooth and seamless, like a swan gliding over the surface of the water, even if its legs were working madly under the surface. This is due to the care managers Sonette and Wander Bester take to deliver a quality experience. They’re ably backed up by a small but friendly and helpful staff, including the irrepressible Fidiney Runeasu whose ready smile lit up the Conservatory at dinner (a fine dining experience) and breakfast (a delicious three-course extravaganza).
If you’re looking for value for money (especially off season), quality and attention to detail without fusty formality, then Schoone Oordt is just the ticket.
For some 50 places to stay in and around Swellendam, see Swellendam Tourism's accommodation listings.
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10 things to do when you visit Swellendam
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